During the 2010-11 NBA season, Kobe Bryant was by far the highest-paid player in the league with a salary of $24,806,250. There was a significant gap between Bryant and everyone else that year; the next-highest-paid players were Rashard Lewis ($19,573,711) and Kevin Garnett ($18,800,000).
Now, just nine years later, there are 45 players around the NBA who will earn at least $25,000,000. These days, Stephen Curry is the league’s top earner with a salary of $40,231,758. To put that in perspective, consider that the Sacramento Kings’ entire 2010-11 roster combined to make $45,268,465.
In other words, it’s an excellent time to be an NBA player. With franchise valuations and salary-cap figures skyrocketing due to the NBA’s popularity, many players are signing massive contracts. Today, we’ll take a look at some of those deals by breaking down each team’s highest-paid player.
Chandler Parsons: $25,102,512 (45th in the NBA)
Parsons signed a four-year, $94 million contract in the summer of 2016 and it quickly became regarded as one of the worst deals in the NBA due to his injuries and struggles. After the NBA’s new television deal led to a surprise influx in cash, the Memphis Grizzlies decided to splurge on Parsons even though he’d suffered numerous right-knee injuries that required surgery. The deal blew up in Memphis’ face, as Parsons was only able to play 95 games over the last three seasons. That means he’s earned a whopping $994,090 per game while on this contract, which expires in July. Atlanta acquired Parsons in July in exchange for Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee (who are also on relatively bad deals).
Even when he’s been healthy enough to play, his physical limitations make him a liability. While it’s not ideal to have the shell of a role player as their top earner, the Hawks are in a unique position since their franchise cornerstones are all on rookie-scale contracts and one of their top priorities is maintaining their cap flexibility. They have the cheapest payroll in the NBA this season, so holding onto Parsons’ expiring deal doesn’t affect them (and without his contract, they’d be significantly under the NBA’s minimum team salary). Atlanta is wisely saving their cap space, likely with a focus on the 2021 free-agent class that could feature Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, LeBron James and Rudy Gobert among others.
Kemba Walker: $32,742,000 (12th in the NBA)
Walker has been one of the NBA’s biggest bargains in recent years. Prior to inking this lucrative deal with the Celtics, Walker’s average salary was just $7,381,398 for his career. In 2014, he signed a four-year, $48 million extension with the Charlotte Hornets and while this gave him some long-term security at the time, he quickly outplayed that contract. He became a three-time All-Star, but he was still making just $12,000,000 in each of the last four seasons. Interestingly, this is Walker’s first time being the highest-paid player on his team. Last year, five of his Hornets teammates earned more than him: Nicolas Batum ($24,000,000), Bismack Biyombo ($17,000,000), Marvin Williams ($14,087,500), Cody Zeller ($13,528,090) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13,000,000). These ugly contracts were part of the reason why Charlotte was never able to build a contender around Walker’s discounted deal.
This year, Kemba’s salary increased by 172.85 percent and he has the 12th-highest salary in the NBA after failing to crack the Top 100 in 2018-19. After this season, Walker has two more guaranteed years on his contract that will pay him $34,379,100 and $36,016,200, and then he has a player option for $37,653,300 in 2022-23. That means Walker could earn as much as $140,790,600 over the next four years, after making just $59,051,183 in his first eight NBA seasons. After many years of being underpaid, the 29-year-old is finally making money more in line with his on-court performance.
Kevin Durant: $37,199,000 (7th in the NBA)
Unfortunately, Durant is expected to miss the entirety of the 2019-20 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals. Only a player of Durant’s caliber could go down with one of the worst injuries imaginable and, after just a few weeks, still receive maximum offers from every possible suitor. Durant is obviously a generational talent who can singlehandedly turn around a franchise’s fortunes, which is why it was such a big deal that the Nets landed him this offseason. Even as he spends the season rehabbing his Achilles, the only players who will earn more than him are LeBron James ($37,436,858), John Wall ($38,199,000), James Harden ($38,199,000), Chris Paul ($38,506,482), Russell Westbrook ($38,506,482) and Stephen Curry ($40,231,758).
Durant’s income is actually up 23.99 percent from last season with the Golden State Warriors (when he made $30,000,000). HoopsHype has learned that with bonuses, Durant could earn as much as $38,199,000 in 2019-20, $40,108,950 in 2020-21, $42,018,900 in 2021-22 and $43,928,850 in 2022-23. The first three years of this deal are guaranteed and then he has a player option in 2022-23. Aside from Durant’s $37,199,000 and Kyrie Irving’s $31,742,000, the Nets don’t have any huge salaries on their books. Their next-biggest contracts are Spencer Dinwiddie ($10,605,600), DeAndre Jordan ($9,881,598) and Joe Harris ($7,666,667), which are reasonable.
Nicolas Batum: $25,565,217 (44th in the NBA)
While Batum continues to produce as a solid role player, he’s paid like a star. This season, he’s earning just $277,480 less than Giannis Antetokounmpo and $1,306,790 more than Rudy Gobert. At this point, it’s impossible for Batum to contribute at a level that would justify his current paychecks. The 30-year-old has received a lot of criticism and been labeled “overpaid” by frustrated fans, which would take a toll on anyone.
“I’ve told other players this: Sometimes when you’ve signed a big contract, you feel like you’re a criminal,” Batum told HoopsHype last year. “Bro, it’s like you went into a bank armed with a gun and you robbed the bank like, ‘Give me the money!’ That’s [what it feels like].”
After this season, the Hornets have several big contracts coming off their books including Bismack Biyombo’s $17,000,000, Marvin Williams’ $15,006,250 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s $13,000,000. But Batum still has one more year remaining on his deal – a $27,130,434 player option that he’s sure to exercise. Rather than learn from past mistakes and be cautious with their cap space going forward, Charlotte continues to make questionable financial decisions. This summer, they gave Terry Rozier a three-year deal worth $58 million that surprised many people around the NBA.
Otto Porter: $27,250,576 (34th in the NBA)
The Bulls added Porter prior to February’s trade deadline, sending Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and a 2023 second-round pick to the Washington Wizards for the 26-year-old. While Porter’s huge contract surely scared some teams away, Chicago believes he’s a great fit alongside their youngsters like Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Wendell CarterJr. After landing with the Bulls, Porter played some of the best basketball of his career, averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.6 threes and 1.2 steals while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from deep.
It’s worth noting that Porter has some interesting details in his contract. He receives half of his salary upfront at the start of each season, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. Also, Porter initially had a 15 percent trade kicker in his contract, but it was voided because it would’ve put him above the max for a player with his years of service. The unique payment schedule and 15 percent trade bonus were added to Porter’s contract by the Brooklyn Nets, who signed the forward to a max offer sheet in the summer of 2017 and made it as player-friendly as possible in hopes of scaring Washington away (but the Wizards ultimately matched). Porter has a player option worth $28,489,239 for 2020-21.
Kevin Love: $28,942,830 (22nd in the NBA)
After losing LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in back-to-back years, the Cavaliers wanted to do whatever it took to keep Love long-term. Cleveland gave Love a four-year extension worth $120 million, which was pretty shocking since Cleveland is in the midst of a rebuild and Love is squarely in his prime at 31 years old. Because the five-time All-Star and the Cavs seem to be on very different trajectories, there has been a lot of speculation that Cleveland could look to trade Love at some point in the near future.
However, it’s possible that some teams will want to avoid this contract. The thought of paying $28,942,830 to a 34-year-old Love may scare away certain front offices. While Love’s game should age better than some players’ given his skill set, it’s not hard to imagine this becoming a bad contract at some point in the future – especially if injuries continue to be an issue for the big man. Remember, he missed all but 22 games last season with a foot injury that kept resurfacing. He’s healthy now and producing at a high level, but this could be a deal that the Cavs someday regret.
Kristaps Porzingis: $27,285,000 (31st in the NBA)
This offseason, the Mavericks showed just how much they believe in Porzingis when they signed him to a five-year, $158 million max contract despite the fact that he hadn’t played a single minute with the team. He hadn’t appeared in an NBA game since February of 2018, but Dallas wanted to lock up The Unicorn and have him alongside Luka Doncic for many years to come. This is the first huge payday of Porzingis’ NBA career, so he saw his salary increase by 378.93 percent from 2018-19 to 2019-20.
So far, it seems like the Mavs made the right call. Dallas has just one loss and even though he’s still shaking off the rust, Porzingis is averaging 22.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 threes. And keep in mind that Porzingis just turned 24 years old in August, so his best basketball is likely still ahead of him too. The first four years of Kristaps’ contract are guaranteed and then he has a player option for $36,016,200 in 2023-24.
Paul Millsap: $30,000,000 (20th in the NBA)
Millsap is in the final season of the three-year, $90 million contract that he signed back in July of 2017. He’s currently the ninth-highest-paid forward in the league, and he’s one of just 20 players who will earn at least $30 million this season. Millsap’s contract includes a $500,000 bonus for making the All-Star Game and a $150,000 bonus for playing 65 games and averaging 7.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
The four-time All-Star has played an integral role in helping the Nuggets make the leap from promising up-and-comer to legitimate contender. Even at 34 years old, the big man continues to produce; last year, he averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds during Denver’s postseason run. When Millsap’s contract comes off of Denver’s books next year, Nikola Jokic ($29,542,010) and Jamal Murray ($29,000,000) will become the Nuggets’ highest-paid players (barring any changes).
Blake Griffin: $34,449,964 (8th in the NBA)
Griffin inked this five-year, $173 million contract as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers and seemed determined to finish his career with the organization that drafted him. However, the Clippers had other plans, trading him to the Pistons just sixth months later in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and draft picks.
In Detroit, Griffin has continued to expand his game. Last season, he averaged a career-high 24.5 points to go along with 7.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 threes, which earned him his fifth All-NBA selection. Only seven players will earn more than Griffin this season: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, John Wall, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Stephen Curry: $40,231,758 (1st in the NBA)
Not only is Curry the NBA’s highest-paid player, he’s the only player who will earn at least $40 million this season. However, this comes after years of being massively underpaid. It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when it seemed like Curry wasn’t going to reach his full potential due to ankle and foot injuries. After undergoing ankle surgery in 2012, Curry signed a four-year extension worth $44 million because he wanted long-term security given the uncertainty surrounding his health. Of course, he overcame these obstacles and became a two-time Most Valuable Player, but it’s not like he could renegotiate his deal. During his two MVP seasons, Curry earned $10,629,213 (60th among all players) and $11,370,786 (65th among all players).
As a global superstar, Curry has made a ton of money from endorsement deals and appearance fees, but now his NBA paychecks are huge too. Between Curry, Klay Thompson and D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors have $100,258,758 committed to their backcourt this year. If that trio is still together in 2021-22, Golden State will be paying Curry, Thompson and Russell a total of $113,775,186.
Russell Westbrook: $38,506,482 (2nd in the NBA)
The Rockets have the NBA’s second-highest-paid player and fourth-highest-paid player on their roster this season. Westbrook is second with a salary of $38,506,482, and James Harden is fourth at $38,199,000. They are easily the top-earning duo in the league and they each have three years remaining on their contracts (including their player options in 2022-23). If they’re still together three years from now and both decide to opt in, the Rockets will owe them $94,430,238 combined!
While Westbrook is earning more money this season, Harden will actually surpass Westbrook as the team’s highest-paid player by 2021-22. Also, Harden has a 15 percent trade kicker in his agreement, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (which Westbrook does not). All eyes will be on Harden and Westbrook this season to see how they can co-exist on the court, but making this work financially for the long haul could be equally challenging for Houston’s front office.
Victor Oladipo: $21,000,000 (50th in the NBA)
The Pacers have done a terrific job of putting together a very competitive team without breaking the bank. This season, they have the 27th-cheapest payroll in the NBA and they have plenty of smart deals on their books. Oladipo is their top earner and he has two seasons remaining on his current four-year, $84 million deal (which he initially signed as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2016). Since landing in Indiana, Oladipo has earned an All-NBA selection and become a two-time All-Star, so paying him a Top 50 salary is more than fair.
Right behind Oladipo on Indiana’s payroll is Malcolm Brogdon, who will earn $20,000,000 this year after leaving the Milwaukee Bucks to sign with the Pacers this offseason. Indiana has much of their young core locked up long-term, with Brogdon and Myles Turner under contract through 2022-23 and Domantas Sabonis under contract through 2023-24.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Paul George: $33,005,556 (10th in the NBA)
This may surprise a lot of people, but George is actually earning more than Kawhi Leonard this season (and he’ll continue to earn more for the duration of their current contracts in Los Angeles). However, the difference is a minuscule $263,556. George is the 10th-highest-paid player in the NBA this season at $33,005,556, and then Leonard comes in right behind him at No. 11 with his salary of $32,742,000. Both players signed three-year contracts with a player option in the final campaign, so they will each have a $36 million+ opt-in decision to make come 2021-22.
This season, Leonard is actually earning the exact same amount ($32,742,000) as four other players: Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. That’s because all five players inked maximum contracts this summer and they all have nine years of service.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
LeBron James: $37,436,858 (6th in the NBA)
After taking numerous paycuts earlier in his career, LeBron James and his camp have made it clear that he’s done playing on non-max deals. At one point, James was fine with leaving some money on the table so that his team could spend the extra cash on his supporting cast. When James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh formed the Big 3 in Miami, they all sacrificed a bit of money (which allowed the team to add and retain role players like Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem). Now, James wants every cent he’s owed – in part to set an example for younger players that they shouldn’t have to choose between winning and making max money. Kobe Bryant took a similar stance later in his career, pointing out how players are often the ones expected to make these financial sacrifices rather than the billionaire owners.
Until this current deal with the Lakers, James had strategically signed short-term deals so that he could re-enter free agency and ink new deals as the salary cap increased. Now, he’s on a multi-year deal with the Lakers and he has has two years remaining on the contract (including a player option in 2021-22 worth $41,002,274).
Andre Iguodala: $17,185,185 (69th in the NBA)
The Grizzlies are the only team in the NBA without a single player earning at least $18 million this season. As they rebuild, they want to maintain their cap flexibility (while stockpiling young players and draft picks). Iguodala’s $17,185,185 salary is the largest on their books, but it’s very possible that he will be traded or bought out at some point this season. The team has already allowed veterans such as Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley to move on by waiving them, and most people around the NBA expect Iguodala to land with a contender as well. If that happens, Jonas Valanciunas would become the Grizzlies’ highest-paid player at $16,000,000. With Iguodala, Valanciunas, Solomon Hill, Jae Crowder, Josh Jackson and several others on expiring contracts, Memphis has just $48,301,377 in guaranteed money committed for next season.
Jimmy Butler: $32,742,000 (11th in the NBA)
Ever since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh moved on from Miami, Pat Riley has been trying to land a new star to build around. The Heat are a well-run organization that players respect because of their strong culture and championship pedigree, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re in a fun, warm-weather city where players can earn more money since there’s no state income tax. Miami is an attractive destination, but it’s tough to land elite players without having a star already in place. Oftentimes, finding that first star is the toughest part of building a super-team.
With Butler on board, can Riley add another star or two and vault the Heat back into contention? That’s the big question. Butler’s decision to join the Heat surprised some people around the NBA, especially because the four-time All-Star reportedly turned down a five-year, $160 million offer from the Philadelphia 76ers to join the Heat on a four-year, $142 million deal. In addition to helping Riley’s recruiting pitch, Butler will obviously help the Heat compete in the East this season too. With this deal, the 30-year-old sees his salary increase by 65.01 percent from last season. Butler has a 15 percent trade kicker and 2022-23 player option in this contract, making the deal pretty player-friendly too.
Khris Middleton: $30,603,448 (19th in the NBA)
The Bucks will pay Middleton a guaranteed $137,139,448 over the next four seasons and then he has a $40,396,552 player option for the 2023-24 campaign. There’s only one player in the NBA who’s owed more guaranteed money than Middleton over the next four years and that’s Damian Lillard, who will earn $152,429,274 over that stretch. (If Middleton opts in to the final year of his contract, he’ll have made $177,536,000 from this contract alone. (For comparison, Bradley Beal will earn $127,609,220 over the next four years, but only if he opts in to the final year of his contract in 2022-23).
The Bucks are coming off a 60-win season and they believe they have a legitimate shot at winning a championship this season. Losing Malcolm Brogdon in free agency hurt enough, so there’s no way they were going to let key players like Middleton and Brook Lopez walk too. Middleton made his first All-Star appearance last season and now he’ll look to build on that success. The 28-year-old saw his salary increase by 135.41 percent from last year.
Andrew Wiggins: $27,504,630 (27th in the NBA)
The Timberwolves were hesitant to give Wiggins this big payday in the first place, with owner Glen Taylor making him promise that he’d work harder and not get complacent. Rather than going with their gut, Minnesota paid Wiggins anyway and he hasn’t shown much improvement. While Wiggins is still just 24 years old, his work ethic and love of the game are concerns, which is why it’s hard to imagine him suddenly becoming a franchise player for the Wolves. Unlike Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns has continued to make huge strides. He’s making $219,630 less than Wiggins this season, but Towns is earning every penny of his contract. By 2021-22, Towns will surpass Wiggins as the highest-paid player on the team. This season, Wiggins will earn the same amount as Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid ($27,504,630). Minnesota likely regrets this contract, and executives around the NBA sometimes mention it as a cautionary tale for front offices.
“Paying someone a ton of money before they’ve proven that they’re the difference between your team winning or losing basketball games is terrifying,” one GM told HoopsHype. “What’s the carrot that’s being dangled in front of them? They’ve never won and I’m proving that I don’t care by paying them anyway. I’m rewarding their empty stats. I’m rewarding you for being the best player on a sh** team. When a high-profile rookie joins a bad team, they are given a nice salary and a shoe deal from day one and they’re handed a starting role. They never have to earn anything. What’s going to make him flip that switch and suddenly make him start caring about winning and being a team player? He’s going to stick with what’s gotten him a max contract and huge shoe deal.”
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Jrue Holiday: $26,131,111 (39th in the NBA)
Holiday may not be a superstar like some others on this list, but it’s fitting that he’s the Pelicans’ highest-paid player because he’s the heart and soul of this team and means so much to the organization – on and off the court. When Anthony Davis requested a trade from New Orleans, there was some speculation that the Pelicans could look to blow up their roster and move Holiday as well. However, they never considered parting ways with him and told teams as much. For example, the Los Angeles Clippers called to inquire about Holiday at one point over the summer (prior to acquiring Paul George), but they were rebuffed.
The Pelicans have a clean cap sheet; after Holiday, their next-highest-paid players are the short-term deals of Derrick Favors and JJ Redick. It helps that Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and others are still on their rookie contracts. Holiday has two guaranteed years remaining on this contract, followed by a 2021-22 player option worth $27,020,000. Holiday gets a $255,000 bonus if he plays 67 games and averages at least 3.15 rebounds, and he’ll earn a separate $100,000 bonus if he’s selected to an All-NBA Defensive Team, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Julius Randle: $18,000,000 (65th in the NBA)
This summer didn’t work out the way the Knicks had hoped, as their top two targets – Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – spurned them for their crosstown rival, the Brooklyn Nets. Rather than spending irresponsibly and giving multi-year deals to lesser-tier players, the Knicks maintained their cap flexibility for future summers while also bringing in some veterans who can mentor New York’s young core, help this team be more competitive and develop a physically, gritty identity.
The Knicks don’t have any huge deals on their cap sheet, as Randle is their highest-paid player and he doesn’t crack the Top 60 biggest contracts in the league this season. His contract has two guaranteed years (paying him $18,000,000 and $18,900,000), and then just $4,000,000 of his $19,800,000 salary in 2021-22 is guaranteed until June 28, 2021.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Chris Paul: $38,506,482 (2nd in the NBA)
A case could be made that Paul currently has the toughest contract to trade. Stephen Curry is the only player around the NBA earning more than Paul this season, despite the fact that Paul has shown significant signs of decline in recent years. His contract won’t come off the books for several years either; he’ll earn $41,358,814 next season and then can opt in to a $44,211,146 fully-guaranteed salary in 2021-22 when he’ll be 36 years old.
In an ideal world, the Thunder would be able to move Paul for pieces that help their rebuilding effort and Paul would get to finish his career with a contending team. However, even if there is a team that’s interested in acquiring Paul’s services (like the Miami Heat, for example), his contract makes him very difficult to move. Not only would his deal limit any team’s cap flexibility for the next few years, it’s not easy to find trade scenarios that work since a potential suitor would need to package a bunch of salaries to make the deal work financially.
Nikola Vucevic: $28,000,000 (24th in the NBA)
Vucevic has been underpaid for much of his career because he signed a super team-friendly extension entering his third season in the league. The moment his four-year, $53 million contract was announced in 2014, it was widely regarded as a steal for the Magic. And as Vucevic continued to develop, he became an even bigger bargain. Take last season, for example. He averaged career-highs across the board including 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 threes, but he was only earning $12,750,000. He was selected as an All-Star, but his salary didn’t even crack the Top 100 highest-paid players in the league and he was only the fourth-highest-paid player on Orlando’s cap sheet.
After his monster 2018-19 season, the Magic didn’t want to lose Vucevic – especially since head coach Steve Clifford ran his offense through the big man to much success. This season, Vucevic’s salary increased by 119.6 percent over last year’s figure and he’s now the highest-paid center in the NBA. Not bad for a guy who thought his days in Orlando may be numbered when the team drafted Mo Bamba sixth overall in 2018.
Tobias Harris: $32,742,000 (11th in the NBA)
Harris is owed $180,000,000 guaranteed going forward, which is the third-most guaranteed money owed to any player in the NBA (behind only Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson). The 27-year-old has never made an All-NBA team or even All-Star team, yet he’s earning the exact same amount as Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler.
Is Harris actually worth this much money based on what he’s shown so far throughout his career? Or did Philadelphia feel like they had to pay whatever it cost to keep him because they couldn’t stomach losing Butler and Harris in the same week and taking a big step backwards? Harris is a solid role player who certainly helps the Sixers and complements Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons very well, but this is the kind of contract that Philly could end up regretting depending on where Harris goes from here.
Devin Booker: $27,285,000 (30th in the NBA)
Not only is Booker the face of the franchise in Phoenix, he’s one of the most popular young players in the league these days. Because he’s in his fifth NBA season, it’s easy to forget that Booker is still just 22 years old and developing. Because the Suns are a young team with a lot of rookie contracts, Booker is the highest-paid player and it’s not particularly close. There are only three other Suns who are earning an eight-figure salary: Tyler Johnson ($19,245,370), Ricky Rubio ($16,200,000) and Kelly Oubre ($15,625,00).
Booker is earning the same amount as Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and D’Angelo Russell this season, and he’s the 16th-highest-paid guard in the league. This is the first year of Booker’s max contract, so he saw his salary jump from $3,314,365 to $27,285,000 this season (a 723.23 percent increase). As of right now, Booker’s projected cap hold for the 2024-25 season is $43,028,921, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Damian Lillard: $29,802,321 (21st in the NBA)
Lillard is owed $257,429,273 in guaranteed money going forward, which is by far the most of any player in the NBA. Nobody else is even owed $190 million at the moment, showing just how big the gap is between Lillard and everyone else. Over the years, Lillard has insisted that he wants to finish his career with the Blazers, and his decision to sign a super-max extension (two years before his contract was even up) lines up with that. Lillard was already under contract through 2020-21, so he’ll earn $29,802,321 and $31,626,953 over the next two years. Then, his super-max contract will kick in, paying him $43,750,000 in 2021-22, $47,250,000 in 2022-23 and $50,750,000 in 2023-24, followed by a player option in 2024-25 worth $54,250,000.
This is a ton of money, but Lillard has been exceptional for the Blazers – on the court, in the community, as a leader, etc. Plus, it’s not like Portland has a history of landing big-name free agents. When a player of Lillard’s caliber wants to stay long-term, you make it work if you’re the Blazers. Lillard is the kind of superstar that every small-market front office dreams of landing. Portland also managed to lock down CJ McCollum on a lucrative, five-year deal, so the Blazers’ excellent one-two punch is here to stay.
Harrison Barnes: $24,147,727 (47th in the NBA)
Barnes received a lot of criticism after the Dallas Mavericks signed him to a four-year deal worth $94 million in 2016, as some fans felt like his success was solely due to the Golden State Warriors’ system. However, that narrative seems dead after the Sacramento Kings traded for Barnes and then doubled down on their belief of him by giving him a four-year, $85 million extension just a few months ago.
By the time Barnes’ current contract comes to an end after the 2022-23 season, the 27-year-old will have earned $166,981,290 over the course of his career (plus whatever he can earn in his 30s). That may seem like a crazy amount of money for Barnes, especially since he’s never been an All-Star or All-NBA selection, but clearly the Kings believe he’ll play a crucial role in turning their team into a contender. Sacramento clearly has a lot of faith in their current core, as they’ve made big financial commitments to Barnes and Buddy Hield (and they tried to extend Bogdan Bogdanovic too).
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
DeMar DeRozan: $27,739,975 (25th in the NBA)
DeRozan has the largest contract on the Spurs, as he’ll earn $27,739,975 this season. That just barely beats out LaMarcus Aldridge’s $26,000,000, and it’s worth noting that Aldridge’s contract includes a 15 percent trade kicker (unlike DeRozan’s). The four-time All-Star guard is coming off a strong year in which he averaged 21.2 points, 6.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
Next season, he has a player option worth $27,739,975. He’ll be 31 years old, so he may choose to opt out and sign a multi-year deal as opposed to delaying his free agency by a whole year. DeRozan is the 13th-highest-paid guard in the NBA this season. Overall, the Spurs have a very clean cap sheet – with only $7 million in guaranteed money currently on the books for the 2021-22 season (to DeMarre Carroll).
Kyle Lowry: $33,296,296 (9th in the NBA)
After helping the Raptors win a championship, the organization rewarded Lowry with a one-year extension that will pay him $30,500,000 next year. Pascal Siakam signed an extension of his own with the Raptors recently and while he’s poised to become Toronto’s top earner in 2021-22 (when he’ll earn $31,320,000), Lowry will hold the distinction until then.
The veteran point guard has quite a few incentives in his contract, as reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks: Lowry would get a $200,000 bonus for making the All-Star Game and playing 65 games, an additional $500,000 for making the Conference Finals, an additional $500,000 for reaching the NBA Finals and an additional $500,000 for winning the title. Finally, he could earn $500,000 more for making an All-Defensive Team or All-NBA 1st or 2nd Team. He can stack several of these bonuses, but the total amount of bonus money is capped at $2,300,000.
Mike Conley: $32,511,623 (17th in the NBA)
Conley has gotten off to a slow start for the Jazz, but it certainly seems like Utah can emerge as a championship contender once they get through this transition period. Conley is the 10th-highest-paid guard in the NBA this season and while he has never made an All-Star team or All-NBA team, he’s highly respected by his peers and he’s an upgrade at the point guard position for Utah both offensively and defensively.
After this season, Conley has a team option worth $34,502,130, so the Jazz will have to decide whether they want to keep him at that salary, move on from him entirely or try to ink him to a new (perhaps multi-year) contract. Utah has the 26th-lowest payroll in the NBA this season, with just $116,261,247 in guaranteed money committed to their 2019-20 roster.
John Wall: $38,199,000 (4th in the NBA)
Wall signed a four-year, $140 million super-max extension in 2017 that, coupled with his initial contract, will pay him $207 million through the 2022-23 season. Wall is earning $38,199,000 this year; then he’ll make $41,254,920 in 2020-21 and $44,310,840 in 2021-22, followed by a player option worth $47,366,760 in 2022-23. Unfortunately, since signing the contract in 2017, Wall has only played in 73 of a possible 167 games due to injuries. In 2017-18, he dealt with knee issues. Last year, he had a heel injury that required surgery and, as he was recovering, he slipped in his home and ruptured his Achilles tendon. That’s one of the scariest injuries a player can suffer, particularly someone like Wall who relies so much on his athleticism and explosiveness. There are plenty of examples of players who were never the same after that injury.
Wall and the Wizards have had the worst luck with injuries and the company line is that Washington doesn’t expect the star point guard to suit up until the 2020-21 season at earliest. Wall won’t be able to play a second of NBA basketball this season, yet he’s earning more money than all but three players: Chris Paul ($38,506,482), Russell Westbrook ($38,506,482) and Stephen Curry ($40,231,758). And as if this contract wasn’t already bad enough for the Wizards, it also includes a 15 percent trade kicker.
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